Julian Westwood – Renaissance Man
For those of
us who have never found themselves behind the wheel of a racing
car, there is one thing that is obvious to us about people who go
racing – they are mad. They must be, to repeatedly put themselves
through the trauma of having to find the budget, find the seat and
then finally go racing; a pastime, incidentally, that is potentially
A typical racing
driver’s career involves many stops and starts and, sadly,
the stops generally occur regardless of talent. Happily for us pedestrians,
however, some racers’ doggedness means that we still get the
opportunity to see that talent on display at race meetings, when
lesser mortals would have taken up gardening at weekends instead.
Westwood began his racing career on the bottom rung of the ‘F1,
Here We Come’ ladder at the age of 14, in karting, before
progressing to single seaters in 1986. Two years of Formula Ford
1600 racing preceded a works Van Diemen drive in FF2000, which netted
him a runner-up slot in the 1988 championship. With graduation to
F3 in 1989, everything looked to be on track, particularly when
his debut race in the category saw a points finish. Driving initially
with Racefax (alongside Alain Menu) and then Swallow, the next logical
move at the time was F3000.
F3000 at the
start of the ‘90s, on paper, was potentially massive. The
1991 FIA F3000 Championship was oversubscribed and boasted such
names as Irvine, Frentzen, van de Poele, Gounon, McNish, Wendlinger,
Morbidelli (and some bloke called Damon Hill). This oversubscription
led to the creation of the British F3000 Championship and Westwood
signed up to drive with CaneCordy Motorsport. The team was created
by ex-Williams GP personnel and the car was a Lola T90-50 Cosworth.
Westwood finished third in the 10-race championship (a year that
was overshadowed by the death of Paul Warwick at Oulton Park) and
was the top British driver. Unfortunately for him, he could not
capitalise on this success, as the budgets required to move into
the International series were prohibitive: he would have to look
elsewhere for his racing.
A year of globe-trotting
followed, with drives in New Zealand (second in the Formula Atlantic
Championship) and also British and Japanese F3s, again with a works
drive for Van Diemen.
motor racing scene was now becoming dominated by the BTCC (in fact,
Westwood’s F3000 debut at Oulton Park in 1991 was on the same
day that the 2 litre touring car category debuted at the same track),
and the young driver’s racing would be touring car-related
for the next few years.
a drive in the 1994 TOCA Shoot Out, Westwood drove in BTCC support
races in Ventos and Renault Spiders (second in the championship
to Jason Plato), before winning the 1997 Vectra championship. A
season of European Renault Spiders in 1998 (second, including a
win at Monaco, and some dramas at Le Mans) was followed in 1999
by a one-off appearance in the British GT Championship F1-support
race, sharing a Porsche GT2 with Gary Ayles. The same year also
saw two outings in British F3 with Team Parker.
At this point,
the racing was getting ever rarer for Westwood, and in 2000 he didn’t
have a single drive. “I absolutely love driving,” he
explains, “but after winning the Vectra championship in 1997
I was really pissed off at not getting a touring car drive and I
decided not to waste any more money chasing drives.”
a chance encounter at the 2001 Autosport International show in Birmingham
saw him racing once again. “I bumped into the boss of High
Class Racing and he invited me to drive a Renault in the Danish
Touring Car Championship. That almost led to a works drive with
Peugeot, but unfortunately that didn’t come off.”
of inactivity was followed by a disappointing year in the SEAT Cupra
Championship (left), courtesy of a nightmare car, and again the
2004, however, Westwood renewed his acquaintance with Team Parker
and he took part in the November night race at Donington Park. That
was very much a toe-in-the-water exercise, but a late deal in early
2005 (that involves him engineering the Team Parker cars, and shifting
tyres, in return for a drive) saw him racing a Porsche 996 with
Martin Rich in the GT3 Class of the British GT Championship.
As ever, the
GT3 class has seen some excellent racing this season and Westwood
has been in the thick of it.
At the opening
round at Donington Park he was ahead of some of the GT2 cars...
... while another
highlight was a scintillating drive in the GT3 stand-alone race
at Croft, where he scythed his way from the back of the pack to
the front in driving rain (below); but whenever he races, the commitment
is never less than full and this weekend at Silverstone should see
further proof of that.
he enjoys his racing, he is also very serious about it. Having to
earn a living away from the track (he is co-owner of a health and
fitness studio in Warwick, and also does development driving for
various manufacturers) means that he isn’t earning money while
at the track. He therefore did not lightly enter into the drive
with Team Parker. Instead, he saw an opportunity to get back into
racing, with a professional and ambitious team, and hopes that this
will open more doors in the future.
2005 has seen
two highly talented single-seater drivers from the last decade (Elton
Julian being the other) fight their way back into sportscar and
GT racing. The category would be wise to do all it can to hold on
to that talent.